When I was 18, it was in 2010 and I had yet to become a Sonic news writer. It was also the year that I got Sonic Adventure 2: Battle on the Gamecube. I wanted to get all the game’s emblems, only to learn that doing so meant that I had to go raise these little creatures that are called Chao, enter them in races and Karate tournaments, and get some emblems there. It didn’t take long before I discovered that raising these cute, adorable Chao is fun and addictive. Now, a decade later, I think it’s time that Sonic Team decided to bring that back.
My first ever opinion piece for Sonic Stadium is about a topic that has been discussed in the Sonic community for some time. Even in 2010, when I got to raise Chao for the first time, I remember seeing fans asking for Sonic Team to bring back the Chao Gardens. That fan demand has only gotten louder and more frequent since then, but there are two major differences.
The first is a growing community of Sonic modders. In 2011, Sonic Adventure DX arrived on Steam, and Sonic Adventure 2 Battle did the same the following year. It took a few years after their re-releases for modders to really dig into them, but since then, their modding communities have only been growing. And that growth has only been accelerating as time passed.
The second difference? SEGA themselves. They know. They’re very aware, especially in recent years, that fans want Chao Gardens back. In fact, all it takes for them to hear fans ask for Chao Gardens to return is for the Sonic PR team to make a Chao-related meme. Aaron Webber, before his promotion, has talked about it on streams in the past. And when they conducted a Twitter poll in 2018 on favorite features from Sonic games, 61.5% of the 80,500 voters picked the Chao Gardens.
Even Takashi Iizuka gets asked about the Chao often. In 2016, when asked why we don’t see Chao much anymore, he said that “Chao require very clean and pure water in order to survive, so you may not see them in a lot of places”. Iizuka had to confirm to IGN at E3 2017 that Sonic Forces specifically wouldn’t have Chao. And Iizuka has been asked about bringing Chao Gardens back. He even got to personally hear fans cheer loudly when Aaron Webber asked them at the 2016 Sonic SXSW panel if they should bring the Chao Gardens back.
Oh yeah, and did I mention that Sonic fans have wanted the return of Chao Gardens so bad that they did it themselves? Chao Resort Island’s last update released in March of this year. Meanwhile, Sonic Adventure 2 modders have been gradually bringing back all of the game’s unused Chao Garden stuff to make Chao World Extended. And there’s Chao Island, a fan site in the Sonic community dedicated to Chao that has been going for well over a decade, with arguably the most information you will ever find about Chao in one place.
So yeah, there’s a lot of fan demand for this. And I just can’t help but wonder why. Maybe they only want them to be a feature in Sonic Adventure games. Maybe it’s because they have to dedicate a portion of the developer team to Chao Gardens, as was the case in Sonic Adventure 2, and it would take too much work and resources in this day and age. Maybe they just don’t want to.
But there is hope. Iizuka has expressed interest in remaking Sonic Adventure. And the Chao, according to Iizuka in an interview last year, were his favorite playable character in Team Sonic Racing. Why? Because “it’s the first time they have been playable since Sonic Adventure 2, and personally I wanted them to show up as playable as well”. And that’s not even considering the massive fan demand that has been going on for years. And Sonic Team has had a history of considering fan feedback in their games. So it’s not like it will never happen. I think it’s possible.
So how could they do it? Remaking Sonic Adventure, if this is something Iizuka and Sonic Team really want to do, is one way. And, well, I suppose you could always go that Sonic Adventure 3 route. Better yet, just don’t have them be a Sonic Adventure-exclusive feature. It worked for the Sonic Advance games, after all. There’s even fan support for the Chao Gardens to be its own separate mobile game.
There’s definitely ways to go about doing it, it’s just Sonic Team has to, well, do it. There’s fan demand, a way to let the Sonic community know they’re listening. If it were to be a side-feature of a main Sonic game, like in the Adventure era, it adds plenty of replay-ability, something that some fans have felt has been lacking in Sonic games lately. And if they do a good quality job at it, it can sell a lot.
Despite the Adventure Chao Gardens being modded and tinkered with for years, not to mention the nearly two decades that have passed since the Chao Gardens were first introduced, there are still things we don’t know about certain aspects of raising Chao in the Adventure games. Even now, I’m still learning new things here and there about this side-feature. So, I can’t even begin to imagine how much depth that modern Chao Gardens would have. The thought of Chao Gardens running on the upcoming generation of consoles that are releasing this year, and how they’d look, it’s surreal to me.
Maybe I’m asking for too much. Sometimes, I think back to a decade ago, when I first raised Chao, and the experience was all so new to me. It still amazes me to this day how much fun and addicting it is to raise Chao. I still play Sonic Adventure 2 very often, even today, because of the Chao. But it’s not the brand new experience that it once was. I’m now a Chao-raising veteran, so there’s very little that surprises me anymore. And I’d love nothing more than for this new generation of Sonic fans and young kids to get to experience the joy of seeing their Chao grow up with them, just like I did so long ago. I really do think it’s time to bring back the Chao Gardens. I just hope that Sonic Team does too.